Car Engine Overheating – Why It Happens and What to Do

Mostly your car engine will overheat due to an issue with your cooling system. We'll look at the symptoms, causes and what to do about it.

overheating car engine

Car Engine Overheating – Nobody will be happy with having a car engine that is running too hot and seeing smoke coming from your engine can be very worrisome. In case you are wondering if it is possible for car engines to overheat the answer is yes, it very much can.

You can take necessary steps to prevent it from happening and if you do experience it, it is best to handle the situation as soon as possible because ignoring it could result in damage to your engine.

What Causes a Car Engine to Overheat?

There are a lot of reasons why your car engine can overheat. Typically it will be due to an issue with your cooling system. If heat is prevented from leaving your engine compartment, then you will have overheating issue.

This problem may emanate from a malfunctioning radiator fan, blocked coolant hose, cooling system leak, or bad water pump.

We have to reiterate at this point, that you shouldn’t delay in taking care of the issue as it could result in more engine complications, causing you to spend more money on repairs that could have been avoided.

Symptoms of an overheating engine

There are some things that you might notice with your car which are indicative of engine overheat. They include:

  • a. Engine temperature gauge on your dashboard changing to red or increasing to “H”. There are different engine temperature gauge for different cars, so you can check your owner’s manual to be sure of the one used for your car.
  • b. Perceiving an abnormal smell from your engine.
  • c. Steam coming from your engine. The steam in this case might look like smoke.

Immediately you observe that your engine is overheating, you have to take actions without any delay. There are some things that you have to do first before contacting a mechanic shop.

What to do if your engine is overheating

1. Turn off the A/C

The first thing you should do is to put off your car air conditioning. What this does is that it helps to decrease the level of stress on the engine, providing you with the window you need to pull over. Of course when you kill the air conditioning you may get a little hot, but it is only for a couple of minutes or would you rather risk engine damage?

2. Pull over in a safe location

Pull over in a safe place, turn off your car and give the engine some time to cool. While you are allowing the engine to cool be monitoring the temperature gauge. It should return to normal range as the engine cools. Do not be in a hurry to continue on your trip as you should give the engine at least 15 minutes to cool.

Even though the engine is cooling while you wait, you shouldn’t completely relax rather you should make plans to have a professional take a look at the overheated engine.

3. Add coolant if possible

If you observe that you have a low coolant level, adding coolant can provide your engine with some much needed protection till you are able to properly take care of the problem.

But in a situation where you have a clogged coolant hose, a bad water pump or a faulty broken radiator, topping coolant will not be of much help.

You can go through your owner’s manual so that you can know where to find your coolant reservoir tank as well as how to add coolant to your car, if you don’t already know.

4. Restart your engine when cooled

It would be best if you can get your vehicle towed, but if that is not possible you should restart your engine now that it has cooled and drive to the mechanic shop closest to you.

While driving, ensure that you are monitoring the temperature gauge and if you notice a spike, just pull over, turn off the car and give the engine some time to cool.

What to avoid doing when you have an overheating engine

1. Don’t make rash decisions

This would usually be because you are panicking, so avoid panicking. If you don’t stay calm and think things through, you can make reckless moves such as swerving through traffic or suddenly hitting the brakes.

2. Don’t keep your engine running

Your engine is already under stress, so it will not be wise for you to still add pressure. This is why you are advised to immediately find a safe place where you can pull over and turn off the engine. If you risk it and continue driving as though nothing is happening that could lead to irreversible engine damage.

3. Don’t be in a haste to open your hood

If you open your hood immediately you pull over, you might sustain some burns or injuries from the steam or smoke coming from your engine. As such, when you park and turn off the engine, you should allow the engine to cool before opening the hood of your car.

4. Don’t waste time before taking care of the problem

Even after the engine has cooled or after you have added coolant, you still need to fix the source of the problem. Treating symptoms instead of tackling root sources of a problem is not a solution.

Earlier in this article, we mentioned some things that can be responsible for engine overheating. The right thing to do is to contact a professional to check out your engine and find the source of the problem so that it can be properly handled.

How to Prevent Your Car Engine from Overheating

Having regular maintenance checks for your car is really important as a lot of issues can be spotted on time and taken care of, engine overheating included. Ensure that you are having regular coolant flushes and exchanges. Also take radiator maintenance very seriously.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here